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How the hostile environment crept into UK schools, hospitals and homes

Categories: Articles:Asylum & Refugees, Articles:Social Justice | Published: 01/08/2018 | Views: 782

Few people who do not see the daily workings of the government’s immigration policy have any idea how doctors, teachers and even landlords have effectively been made to patrol a border within.  Report in the Guardian.

For a doctor in Birmingham, it was the pregnant patient eating less to save money to cover an NHS bill. For a primary school teacher in an inner-city school, it was the moment he sat down with new parents for an uncomfortable conversation about their child’s nationality. For a London lecturer, it was the worry that A-level students were being put off university for fear of being deported. In banks, hospitals, lettings agencies, schools and lecture theatres, the government’s current immigration policy has effectively erected a border within, along which people delivering vital services are coming to terms with unwanted new powers.
Since the Windrush scandal erupted earlier this year, the government’s immigration policies have faced unprecedented scrutiny. For months we have learned about the effects on a generation wrongly classed as “illegal”. But if it looked like a sudden crisis for the government, it has been a daily reality for years for thousands of people on the frontline of the deterrent policies that Theresa May first described as a “hostile environment” in 2012, when she was home secretary. Last week, NHS doctor Neal Russell told how he delivered a baby with untreatable complications – which could have been avoided – to a mother who had been too frightened to attend antenatal appointments. He handed back a medal for his lifesaving work abroad because he did not want to accept an award from a government whose policies have created fear and mistrust in the health services.
This environment, recently rebranded as “compliant” rather than “hostile” by the Home Office, is complex and far reaching. Chastened by the backlash to the scandal, the Home Office says it has paused some policies. In July, it announced a three-month suspension of data sharing between HMRC, the DWP, the DVLA and the Home Office, but only for people over 30 (to protect the Windrush generation). Yet such actions barely touch the web of interwoven legislation, administrative policy and a default position of suspicion that is invisible to most of the public, but has been tightening for years. “The reality,” says Gracie Bradley of the human rights group Liberty, “is that unless people work in the affected professions or are subject to these measures, very few have any idea how deeply embedded they are. I think that’s why the government thinks it can potentially get away with calling it ‘compliant’ now.”
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